Iron County Elections Yield No Clear Message On Mining

Apr 3, 2014

Challengers won three seats in this week’s Iron County board elections.  The wins come despite campaign advertising by a billionaire-backed political advocacy group.

Ten seats were contested in this week's Iron County board elections; three challengers prevailed.

Americans for Prosperity labeled Victor Ouimette, Brad Matson, and Karl Krall as anti-mine activists on a recent mailing.   All three won seats on the county board in this week’s election, beating out incumbents. 

But it’s not clear whether or not that’s a victory for those working to stop a proposed mine in the Penokee Range, says Cortney Ofstad from the Daily Globe newspaper in Ironwood.  She has been covering Iron County elections for several years. 

“For the most part the board is still intact with just three new members coming on.  I mean, there really weren’t a lot of candidates who stood up and said I am pro mining, I am anti-mining, so it’s hard to say if it was really a victory or not.” 

Two of the three winning challengers have expressed skepticism about parts of the mine proposal but haven’t come out fully against it, and another has told media that he strongly supports the project. 

Mercer resident Terry Daulton is coordinator of the nonpartisan Iron County Citizens Forum.  She says issues like senior citizen resources and transportation infrastructure also played a big role in the election.

“In some ways I think this election isn’t really a litmus test on the big elephant in the room which is the mining issue – there’s a lot more complexity to what’s going on in our county than just that one issue.”

Daulton also doubts that voters in the county’s small towns were swayed by campaign ads from outside groups.